Sonata and Revolution – pianist Liam Furey at St.Andrew’s-on-The-Terrace


Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat major, Op. 110
Alban Berg Piano Sonata in B minor Op. 1
Pierre Boulez Sonata no. 1 (1946 (movement 1), “Lent – Beaucoup plus allant”
Frederic Chopin Ballade no 1. in G minor, Op. 23

Liam Furey (piano)

St. Andrews on the Terrace, Wellington

Wednesday, 28th July 2021

Liam Furey is an Honours student of Classical Piano and Composition at the NZ School of Music. This ambitious program was a journey of exploration  by a young musician. He invested an incredible effort into memorizing this wide ranging music, which he considered essential to the understanding of these pieces as the theme of “Sonata and Revolution”.

Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat major, Op. 110

This is the middle of the last three sonatas of Beethoven and in some ways the most difficult of them with its huge double fugue in its last movement. It is a profound piece that may require a lifetime of contemplation, but you have to start somewhere and challenging as it might have been, Liam Furey took the trouble to master it. He called on his audience to get behind the notes, to consider the pauses, the phrases, the contrasts, the riotous levity of the second movement and the dark undertone of the final movement.

Alban Berg Piano Sonata in B minor Op. 1

Berg, under the influence of Schoenberg, explored new harmonies, chromaticism, yet he intended this piece to be in traditional sonata form in B minor. To understand music that preceded it it was instructive to view it in light of what followed. Berg’s beautiful sonata shed light on Beethoven.

Pierre Boulez Sonata no. 1 (1946 (movement 1), “Lent – Beaucoup plus allant”

This is the first of Boulez’s three piano sonatas. He wrote it when he was 21, while studying with Messiaen and under the influence of the music of Schoenberg and René Leibowitz. He experimented with sounds and effects that can be produced on the piano. He sought the rhythmic element of perfect atonality.  This short work is in two movements, with no thematic material, but contrasting sound effects. By 1946 the world moved on a long way from Beethoven and the soundscape of the great composers of the previous century. Boulez, like some of his contemporaries, asked questions about the nature of music. It is these questions that Liam Furey set out to investigate.

Frederic Chopin Ballade no 1. in G minor, Op. 23

With this, one of Chopin’s most popular pieces, we returned to the main stream repertoire. Somehow, after listening to Boulez and Berg, we listened more attentively, and the work proved to be the appropriate climax of the concert. This old warhorse sounded fresh. There were a lot of notes in this piece and lots of Polish passion. Liam Furey played it with feeling, had the music well under control. It was a beautiful way to end a concert of exploration which involved a journey from the first quarter of the nineteenth century to middle of the twentieth, from rules of harmony and form to atonality.

One of the great features of these Wednesday lunchtime recitals is that it gives a platform to young, emerging musicians, who need such opportunities, and for the audience the opportunity to explore, discover and celebrate.

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